Mt. Diablo, California, May 18, 2013, By Jim Freibert
It was one of the biggest climbs in American cycling, 3,865-feet to the summit finish on Mt. Diablo in Stage 7, and became a battleground for attacks and breakaways.
“The entire race I felt good. I had good legs today,” said König. “To be truthful, I like alpine-top finishes, and thought I could win today. This is the biggest win so far (career) for me,” said Konig who rides for Team NetApp-Endura.
Team Jamis-Hagens Berman’s Acevedo placed first in the race’s earliest stage featuring a major climb in temperatures surpassing 107 degrees last Monday, but today he was bested by Konig.
Friday’s climb up Metcalf Road at the end of the San Jose time trial foreshadowed the result of Saturday’s uphill finish.
After posting two of the fastest climbs in the time trial on Friday, König and Acevedo attacked the three-man leader group in the final two miles at one of the steepest points of the route up Mt. Diablo.
Pulling ahead to a 20-second advantage over the peloton, it was either rider’s stage to win until the final 200 meters when König went clear to seal the victory.
Tejay Van Garderen has claimed this jersey at races in the past, as a King of the Mountains leader, but today he focused on a bigger prize, the overall win for the Amgen Tour of California.
BMC Racing Team worked hard to control the peloton up the mountain to put van Garderen in position to finish the stage in third place and secure the overall win he gained after Stage 5 for the 8-stage race’s conclusion on Sunday
“It was an unbelievable team effort. I knew they were strong. I knew they were motivated,” said van Garderen. “But they went above and beyond. They made my life somewhat easy out there, but it was still a hard day.”
Crossing the finish line just after van Garderen was 2010 Amgen Tour of California champion Michael Rogers (AUS) of Team Saxo-Tinkoff, who trails the overall leader by 1 minute, 47 seconds.
Van Garderen and BMC Racing Team will be looking to defend the yellow jersey and take the overall victory tomorrow in Santa Rosa, Calif., where the team is headquartered.
Bissell Pro Cycling’s Carter Jones drew first blood just ten miles into the race, on the Morgan Territory climb, ahead of previous Tour de France winner Andy Schleck, another rider who has claimed KOM jerseys in the past.
After yesterday’s stage rolled downhill almost forty miles, Jones struck again 52.1 miles in on the Patterson Pass: this time he beat the Bontrager team’s Nathan Brown, then they were absorbed by the field.
At last year’s Tour de France, 24-year-old van Garderen wore the White Jersey—Best Young Rider all the way to Paris and stood on their awards podium.
He was also the highest placed American, finishing in fifth place overall, against more seasoned competitors.
Last Monday, on Stage 2, van Garderen was second on that day’s final climb, a thousand feet less, to the base of the Palm Springs Aerial Tram – think Alpine altitudes!
Friday, on Stage 6, van Garderen blew away his competition on a 19.6-mile time trial course, finishing in 48 minutes, gaining 1 minute five seconds against his toughest competition, on a steep, 800-foot climb.
But all that was merely a warm-up compared to today’s finish on Mt. Diablo.
Race documents have conflicting information, but it’s between 3,848, or 3,865, and 3,889′ feet above the nearby San Francisco Bay, plus or minus twenty feet.
Acevedo was 7 seconds behind König at the summit, but 5 seconds ahead of van Garderen.
Just behind van Garderen, the 2010 ATOC champion Mick Rogers of Saxo-Tinkoff fought valiantly to limit his losses.
He now trails the overall by 1 minute, 47 seconds, a seemingly insurmountable lead, with only one day of racing left.
But Rogers has been in a spot like this before: in 2010, he was in second place and on the final stage his team managed to help him capture the title.
To the point, van Garderen’s BMC team will not rest until they cross Sunday’s finish line in Santa Rosa.
It looks like World Champion Philippe Gilbert’s confidence was well placed, when he left to meet his wife in the delivery room and predicted that the Coloradan could win this race without his help.
The yellow jersey battle looks settled, but the race isn’t over yet.
It looks like the red polka dot jersey for King of the Mountain will go to Carter Jones. With 47 KOM points more than Acevedo and Andy Schleck combined, all he has to do is finish tomorrow.
This could be a good sign for American cycling going forward: Van Garderen is 24, Jones is 21, and the entire Bontrager team, are 19, 20, and 21 years old!
And there’s only one point separating Peter Sagan 38 points from Tyler Farrar’s 37 points in the Green Jersey competition for the sprinter’s jersey – lot of action on tap for the last day!